Belfast Telegraph

Politicians must be persuaded to put the economy ahead of their ambition

Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

By Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

There is no doubt that the draft Withdrawal Agreement is a welcome step forward for the majority of businesses in NI and it is definitely much better than a no-deal scenario. Our trading firms will be paying close attention to what happens next.

The agreement is a significant milestone in the political process of Brexit, and is clearly a personal achievement for the Prime Minister.

As she visits NI today, it is the perfect opportunity to highlight how her resilience has been matched only by that of businesses challenged by three years of non-stop political debate and continuous uncertainty. This is not a great environment for entrepreneurs and inward investors trying to grow their businesses and provide much needed employment.

We now encourage our political representatives who support the agreement to do everything in their power to influence political representatives in Britain to join them. They must be persuaded to put the economy ahead of political ambition.

It is time to support the general direction of the agreement and use the transition period to focus on the details.

For those that are not in support of the draft agreement, it is now time to outline your alternative proposals.

Any new proposals must ensure that NI has unfettered access to markets and a business environment conducive to growth including access to skills from across the globe. Businesses acknowledge that this agreement, and the proposed backstop mechanism, are not the intended permanent solutions.

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Since the Withdrawal Agreement was published, NI Chamber has reiterated its views with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State Karen Bradley, and yesterday business organisations continued their engagement on the deal via meetings with the DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP, Alliance Party and Green Party, with further meetings scheduled with the UUP.

As an organisation whose aim is to help grow the NI economy, NI Chamber's overarching message is clear - we must grow the private sector - not shrink it.

Therefore businesses cannot face the chaos of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU next March.

As we await whatever outcome before Christmas, with people's livelihoods, their jobs and the future prospects for many companies in the balance, we ask that parliamentarians keep the millions of firms and families trying to plan for the future at the forefront of their minds over the next number of weeks.

Belfast Telegraph